Middle class Americans are saving more for future health care costs, according to a survey.

An increase in medical costs is forcing Americans to rethink their savings priorities, with many choosing to pour more into monthly retirement savings, according to the First Command Financial Behaviors Index.

The average monthly savings solely for health care costs during retirement rose to $245 in July, an increase of 42% from a year earlier. In addition, 20% of Americans who save for health care costs in retirement are now putting over $300 per month away for the future, compared to 14% a year earlier.

A study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found that in over 300,000 simulations the average lifetime health care expenditure for a typical married couple at the age of 65 is $197,000. This figure covers insurance premiums, out-of-pocket costs and home health costs. With nursing home costs included in the equation, that amount rose to $260,000, with a 5% risk of exceeding $570,000.

In a May 2008 study, the Employee Benefit Research Institute determined that a couple who retired in 2008 at age 65 would need $635,000 in savings to cover Medigap premiums, Medicare Part B and Part D premiums and out-of-pocket drug expenses. And a couple retiring in 2018 at age 65 will need more than $1 million.

But fewer than 10% of American adults have any sot of long-term care insurance, even more reason why saving early on for future health care costs is so important.

A recent report in USA Today found an increase in the number of doctors limiting Medicare patients even though, or possibly because of, the fact that millions of baby boomers will begin to enroll in the government program.

“This significant increase in savings is being driven by deep worries among consumers,” Scott Spiker, the CEO of FirstCommand Financial Services, Inc., said in a press release. “More than two thirds of middle-class families are concerned about how they will pay for medical care during retirement, and they are starting to take action. Three out of ten consumers say that their current retirement planning includes saving for health care costs in retirement, separate from typical daily living expenses.”

Yet Americans grossly underestimate how much they will need to cover future health care costs. Americans only expect to need about $100,000 above traditional retirement savings to cover health care costs during retirement, according to First Command.

“While the savings picture is improving, relatively few Americans are adequately planning for the medical expenses they will face in the years ahead,” Spiker said. “Social Security and Medicare will become increasingly stressed by a growing elderly population that will face higher health care costs and longer retirements than past generations. Tomorrow’s retired Americans will have to bear more of the financial burden of their own medical care.

The First Command Financial Behaviors Index is a survey of approximately 1,000 U.S. consumers aged 25 to 70 with annual household incomes of at least $50,000.

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